My brother-in-law doesn’t hate me after all. He just doesn’t want to be a copywriter.

August 19, 2010 •
Image of my brother-in-law who doesn't want to be a copywriter

My brother-in-law Phil has a real way with words. He’s also something of a stand-up comedian. So I’ve been at him to write freelance for me, but he keeps ignoring me. I thought it was simply ‘coz Paul Cunningham says I’m hard to work for, but it turns out he’s just not comfortable with the whole concept of being a copywriter. When I asked why, he was kind enough to write me a blog post by way of answer. How cool is that?

The post made me laugh. A lot. And despite the fact that Phil’s never worked freelance, he’s somehow very familiar with the challenges we face. So I thought I’d post it for everyone to enjoy.

Over to Phil…

4 Reasons I won’t work for you. Now please stop begging.

By Phil Webb

Writing, for me, is like pulling teeth. The words are in my head but they don’t come out easily. I have to wrench them loose, one by one, with a sturdy pair of pliers.

I’m currently extracting a novel at the painstaking rate of 50 words per day. And that day is a good day. If I maintain this pace, I’ll be almost but not quite half-finished my first draft when the world ends in 2012.

I’m a patient man. Mayan apocalypses notwithstanding, I’m prepared to work for as many years as it takes to finish my novel and earn my J.K. Rowling money. In the meantime, however, I have bills to pay and unsavoury habits to support. And given that the market for draft chapters of unfinished first novels is a tad slow at the moment, I can’t afford to give up my day job just yet.

Which brings me to freelance copywriting. For a would-be writer, it seems like an attractive option. It may not be a novel but it’s still writing, right? And getting paid to write has to be a good thing, right?

Wrong.

After giving it some serious thought, I’ve decided that the life of a freelance copywriter is not the life for me. Here are my reasons why:

1. Regular bread

Bills arrive at my house on a regular basis. Freelance copywriting jobs do not. Being the sole breadwinner for my family, I need to win enough bread each week to keep the mutineers at bay. The national bread lottery provides occasional relief, but the best source of bread is still a steady full-time job.

Or a bakery. Those are good too.

2. They’ll never take my freedom

The thought of following a brief disagrees with me. Briefs are restrictive. Every man knows that.

I prefer to write behind a mask of blue face-paint. As a free man, I can take my stories in any direction I care to take them. Nobody can stop me, not even those damned English (too far with the Braveheart metaphor?) If an idea pops into my head, it’s far easier to find a home for it in a tale of my own concoction than on the welcome page of www.ericthepieking.com.

3. You want it when?

I want writing to be fun. Copywriting sounds suspiciously like a job. I’m both a perfectionist and a procrastinator, and that’s a bastard child that doesn’t play well with deadlines. Having to submit a piece of writing by close of business Wednesday would make me feel very uncomfortable indeed. I need to review. And re-review. And change that word. And change it back. And set it aside and watch TMZ. And put a comma there. And delete the whole stupid thing. I can’t do all of that by Wednesday.

4. Shopping around

If a publisher rejects my novel, I’ll just take it to a different publisher. If every publisher rejects my novel, I’ll self-publish and sell it out of the back of my car. That’s what Dan Brown did, and look what happened to him.*

If, on the other hand, I write a blurb for the SlideMaster 5000, and www.slidemasterslides.com rejects it, that doesn’t leave me with too many options, does it? I can’t just shop my blurb around with the other waterslide manufacturers, and it’s harder than you might think to sell website content out of the back of your car. No network port, you see.

* That’s not what Dan Brown did.

Nearly done

My notions about being a copywriter have no basis in fact. I’ve never written a word of copy, freelance or otherwise. I’ve learned everything I know from watching Mad Men.

And, clearly, my notions about being a novelist have no basis in fact either. J.K. Rowling money? Who am I kidding?

I’m not here to influence or criticise anybody’s career choice. In fact, I’m not sure why I’m writing this at all. Because I wanted to, I suppose. And now that I realise I should have one, that’s my whole point, isn’t it?

Feel free to comment...
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Jeanne wrote on August 19th, 2010

What's not to love? Very amusing, to the point and oh so true! Brilliant, thanks for the giggle... now back to that draft :)

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James Chartrand - Men with Pens wrote on August 19th, 2010

I sense a bit of hesitation. I'm not entirely sure, but it sounds like you may actually be on the fence about it all. Perhaps being ruled by fear. After all, Braveheart aside, the world of copywriting is a terrifying place where only the bold and courageous walk. Or eat bread. We eat a lot of bread. That's only on Tuesdays, of course, because despite our luxurious sites and ultra-sharp words, we're drunk as lords the other half of the time and Dan Brown's trunk probably looks in a lot better shape than the ones we own. See, that's the thing, really - we're masters of deception. Copywriters are skilled wordsmiths who can make you believe almost anything. Which is why, you see, I think you're really on the fence and hiding a secret desire to become a pen warrior. Because if you weren't, you'd use that deception skill and tell us you absolutely, irrevoquably, definitely wanted to be a copywriter. And then, you see, we wouldn't believe a word you said. Because who the hell in their right mind wants that?!

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Karri Flatla wrote on August 19th, 2010

If we had more "writers" like you around, I reckon we'd not need near as many "copywriters." :)

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ben ryan wrote on August 19th, 2010

I remember hearing a quote about a writer complaining he'd only written seven words for the day. When his editor tried to encourage him by saying that was a good effort, the writer replied "but I don't know what order they go in". I'm with Phil - I'm slogging away at my Bryce Courtney/Dan Brown/ Rowling break through...well, I am when I'm not doing something to distract me from doing that.

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on August 19th, 2010

Ha! I agree @Jeanne. And yes, back to that draft. For me, today it's portable toilets. (Bet you're regretting saying all those silly things about copywriting, now, aren't ya Phil?! How often have YOU had the chance to write about portable toilets? Yeah, didn't think so...)

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Amanda Gonzalez wrote on August 19th, 2010

And this is why bloggers are better writers than copywriters are. Now if only there was a link to subscribe for more/buy something from this bloke...

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Shane Arthur wrote on August 19th, 2010

Phil reminds me of Phil in the movie Ground Hog Day. Stuck in the same day of wondering what it would be like to actually be a copywriter but waking up each day otherwise. :) Phil writes well, though. He should at least get one official copy writing job, THEN make up his mind. And if that doesn't interest him, he's always welcome over at our CCC site, let him know, Glenn. :)

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on August 19th, 2010

Ah yes. That's a good point, Shane. CCC would be right up his alley. Phil, that's http://www.creativecopychallenge.com/ (yes, I know you're lurking...).

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Phil Webb wrote on August 19th, 2010

Well spotted, Glenn. Sounds like I need a new disguise. Not surprising really. Groucho's been dead for years. Thanks for the link, Shane. Ten words is a tempting headstart. Only forty to go then I'm done for the day! Nobody told me about the drinking, James. Forget everything I said, I'm in. What do I gotta sell?

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Aprill Allen wrote on August 19th, 2010

Great post! Phil, you could write for The Wittery (http://thewittery.com/), if it's *really* just that Glenn is too difficult. ;)

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Merryl Rosenthal wrote on August 22nd, 2010

Phil is bright and laugh-out-loud funny! I sincerely hope he DOES make J.K. Rowling money. :)

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maryawrites wrote on November 1st, 2010

I absolutely loved this post. Does your brother in law have a blog?

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on November 4th, 2010

Unfortunately not. He should have, shouldn't he!?

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Are all copywriters this obsessive? wrote on June 4th, 2015

[…] My brother-in-law understands this. My wife just thinks I’m crazy. […]

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